Bighorn Sheep Survey Shows Mixed Results
Even though results from this summer’s survey indicated the bighorn sheep population in western North Dakota remains steady, State Game and Fish Department biologists are concerned about a significant decline in the number of adult rams.
Brett Wiedmann, Department big game biologist in Dickinson, said the July-August survey showed a minimum of 299 bighorn sheep, unchanged from last year and only 17 percent below 2008’s record summer survey.
“Although the female segment of the population remained stable, we are concerned about another substantial decline in the number of rams, which was 11 percent below last year and 21 percent below the record observed in 2009,” Wiedmann said. “Annual survival of adult rams is typically very high, so we need to figure out why our ram population is continuing to decline despite reductions in hunting licenses.”
Survey results revealed 79 rams, 155 ewes and 65 lambs – a record 258 in the northern badlands (an increase of seven from last year’s record) and 41 in the southern badlands (down seven). “Bighorn sheep numbers increased again in the northern badlands, but continue to struggle south of the Interstate,” Wiedmann said, while noting that a record 64 lambs were observed in the north, but only one in the south. “However, despite poor results in the southern badlands, the total number of lambs observed this summer surpassed the previous record of 60 in 2008.”
North Dakota’s bighorn sheep hunting season opens October 25 and continues through November 7. Game and Fish issued four licenses this year, the same as in 2012.
PLOTS Regulation Reminder
Before venturing on to Private Land Open To Sportsmen tracts this fall, here are some reminders.
Activities besides hunting, and public access when a hunting season is not open, are not covered in the Game and Fish Department’s agreement with the landowner; thus, they require written permission from the landowner.
Activities such as riding horses for hunting purposes or for pleasure on PLOTS require written permission from the landowner. Permission from the landowner is always required for motorized vehicle access such as for setting decoys in a field, unless specially designated on the PLOTS sign.
In addition, leaving equipment or other provisions in a PLOTS area overnight, for example tree stands or blinds, decoys, firearms and archery equipment, trail cameras, or any type of bait used to attract big game animals, is not allowed without written permission from the landowner.
Motorists Warned to Watch for Deer
Motorists are reminded to watch for deer along roadways, especially this time of year, because juvenile animals are dispersing from their home ranges.
October through early December is the peak period for deer-vehicle accidents. Motorists are advised to slow down and exercise caution after dark to reduce the likelihood of encounters with deer along roadways. Most deer-vehicle accidents occur primarily at dawn and dusk when deer are most often moving around.
Motorists should be aware of warning signs signaling deer are in the area. When you see one deer cross the road, look for a second or third deer to follow. Also, pay attention on roadways posted with Deer Crossing Area caution signs.
Deer-vehicle accidents are at times unavoidable. If an accident does happen, a new law passed by the 2013 state legislature eliminates the need for the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident that results in property damage only to the vehicle to notify law enforcement authorities.
However, a permit is still required to take parts or the whole carcass of a road-killed deer. Permits are free and available from game wardens and local law enforcement offices.
A few precautions can minimize chances of injury or property damage in a deer-vehicle crash.
- Always wear your seat belt.
- Don’t swerve or take the ditch to avoid hitting a deer. Try to brake as much as possible and stay on the roadway. Don’t lose control of your vehicle or slam into something else to miss the deer. You risk less injury by hitting the deer.
- If you spot deer ahead, slow down immediately and honk your horn.
Sportsmen against Hunger Accepting Deer, Snow Goose Meat
North Dakota’s Sportsmen Against Hunger program is accepting donations of deer and snow geese taken during this fall’s hunting season.
Participating processors will not accept deer shot in the hind quarters, and donated deer will be processed individually or only with other donated deer.
Hunters can clean their snow geese at home prior to delivery to a processor, but breast meat brought from home without a wing or head attached to the meat, must be accompanied by written information that includes the hunter’s name, address, signature, hunting license number, date taken and species and number taken.
Hunters may also deliver snow geese directly from the field to a processor, but identification must remain attached to the bird until in possession of the processor.
The list of participating processors is available on the NDCAP website at http://www.capnd.org/.
Hunters interested in donating snow geese are encouraged to call processors to have a clear understanding of how goose breasts will be accepted.
Whooping Crane Migration
Whooping cranes are in the midst of their fall migration and sightings will increase as they make their way through North Dakota. Anyone seeing these birds as they move through the state is asked to report sightings so the birds can be tracked.
Whoopers stand about 5 feet tall and have a wingspan of about 7 feet from tip to tip. They are bright white with black wing tips, which are visible only when the wings are outspread. In flight they extend their long necks straight forward, while their long, slender legs extend out behind the tail. Whooping cranes typically migrate singly, or in groups of 2-3 birds, and may be associated with sandhill cranes.
Other white birds such as snow geese, swans and egrets are often mistaken for whooping cranes. The most common misidentification is pelicans, because their wingspan is similar and they tuck their pouch in flight, leaving a silhouette similar to a crane when viewed from below.
Anyone sighting whoopers should not disturb them, but record the date, time, location and the birds’ activity. Observers should also look closely for and report colored bands which may occur on one or both legs. Whooping cranes have been marked with colored leg bands to help determine their identity.
Whooping crane sightings should be reported to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office at Lostwood, (701) 848-2466, or Long Lake, (701) 387-4397, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s main office in Bismarck at (701) 328-6300, or to local game wardens across the state. Reports help biologists locate important whooping crane habitat areas, monitor marked birds, determine survival and population numbers, and identify times and migration routes.
Whooping cranes inhabited North Dakota in prehistory, certainly as the glaciers receded from this region. The first written record of whooping cranes in North Dakota is provided by Lewis and Clark. They observed the big birds at the mouth of the Little Missouri River in Dunn County April 11, 1805.
Make the Call to Report Violators (R.A.P.)
The North Dakota Game and Fish Department encourages hunters, anglers and landowners who witness a fish or wildlife violation to file a report with the Report All Poachers program.
RAP is a cooperative project between the Game and Fish Department, State Radio Communications and the North Dakota Wildlife Federation. The RAP line offers rewards – from $100 to $1,000 depending on the nature and seriousness of the crime – for information that leads to conviction of fish and wildlife law violators. Reports can also go directly to game wardens or other law enforcement agencies. Callers can remain anonymous.
Witnesses should note vehicle description, including make, color, license plate number and state issued. Description of the violator should also be considered.
Witnesses should report a violation by calling the RAP telephone number at (800) 472-2121. RAP will then contact the local game warden immediately. If the witness gives the RAP operator a phone number, the witness will be contacted right away.
Archery and Shooting Range Grants
The Game and Fish Department has limited funding available for nonprofit organizations interested in starting a new archery or shooting range or enhancing current facilities.
To request a complete application packet, send a request to North Dakota Game and Fish Department, Shooting Range Application Packet, 100 N. Bismarck Expressway, Bismarck, North Dakota 58501.
The packet will contain a step-by-step checklist and paperwork to be completed. Nonprofit applicants will be contacted by March 2014 with results of the evaluation process.
The deadline for project proposals is December 1. Proposals are evaluated on a number of criteria including clubs that provide free and public access, those that have not received funding before, as well as those that are working on tasks that actually put shooters on the ground. These priority items include dirt berms, target hangers, target throwers, storage buildings, sanitary facilities and lighting.
This will be the last time application packets will be mailed. In the future, application information will be found on the Department’s website at gf.nd.gov.
For more information about the process, call John Mazur, Department hunter education coordinator, at (701) 328-6316.
Verify Deer License
Every year the Game and Fish Department’s licensing section receives last-minute inquiries from hunters who can’t find their license. When that happens, it’s difficult to try to get a replacement license in time for the season opener.
Another reason to check the license now is to make sure the unit and species is what was intended.
Deer hunters in need of a replacement license can print out a duplicate (replacement) license application from the Game and Fish website, gf.nd.gov, or can call (701) 328-6300 to have an application mailed or faxed.
The form must be completely filled out and notarized, and sent back in to the Department with a fee.
Check for ANS When Removing Structures
While the fall fishing bite will eventually fade, efforts to monitor the presence of aquatic nuisance species in North Dakota waters continue.
The North Dakota Game and Fish Department urges local entities and water recreationists to check for new aquatic nuisance species infestations when pulling and storing fishing piers, boat docks and lifts prior to ice up.
Fred Ryckman, Game and Fish ANS coordinator, said it is especially important to look for zebra mussels during this winter prep work. Zebra mussels will attach to hard surfaces, such as fishing piers, boat docks and lifts. Inspecting these structures when pulled from the water is important to determine if mussels are present.
To date, adult zebra mussels have not been found in any North Dakota waters.
If mussels are found, citizens are requested to leave the suspicious mussel attached, take a digital picture, and report findings immediately to a local Game and Fish Department district office. Pictures of zebra mussels are available on the 100th Meridian Initiative website at 100thmeridian.org/.
Order 2014 OUTDOORS Calendars
The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is taking orders for its North Dakota OUTDOORS calendar, the source for hunting season and application dates for 2014. Along with outstanding color photographs of North Dakota wildlife and scenery, it also includes sunrise-sunset times and moon phases.
To order, send $3 for each, plus $1 postage, to: Calendar, North Dakota Game and Fish Department, 100 N. Bismarck Expressway, Bismarck, ND 58501-5095. Be sure to include a three-line return address with your order, or the post office may not deliver our return mailing.
The calendar is the North Dakota OUTDOORS magazine’s December issue, so current subscribers will automatically receive it in the mail.
Contest to Determine PLOTS Cover
The deadline is months away, but now is the time to frame the perfect photograph for a contest that will determine the cover of the 2014 Private Land Open To Sportsmen guide.
From end-of-day hunting shots, to scenic action or landscape shots, the Game and Fish Department wants to feature hunter photos on the 2014 PLOTS cover and elsewhere that showcase North Dakota’s strong hunting heritage.
The Department’s free PLOTS guide, which highlights walk-in hunting areas across the state, was first published in the late 1990s.
The only real contest guideline is that photos must include a PLOTS sign, front-facing or silhouette.
The contest deadline is April 30, 2014. Log on to the Game and Fish Department’s website, gf.nd.gov, to learn more about contest prizes, rules and entry information.